I read a profound quote recently that stopped me dead in my tracks while I was doing some leadership research in the evening after dinner and it read something along the lines of … This orange blooded philosophy is never going to work!

Do I have your attention?

It was about a book – it was a book written by McKinsey. They did a study on six companies, and it was called The War for Talent. And it was run out of their Chicago office where their most senior partner from McKinsey in human resources was living.

For those that are not familiar – McKinsey & Company is an American worldwide management consulting firm, founded in 1926 by University of Chicago professor James O. McKinsey, that advises on strategic management to corporations, governments, and other organizations.

Arthur Blank, who’s a super stud by the way, he owns the Atlanta Falcons 🏈 , The Atlanta United ⚽️ was the last person that they interviewed in our company, at Home Depot. Oh and he founded that too. 🧰

And Arthur said that he remembers coming in, and the gentleman saying to Arthur, while sitting down, he said, “I have to tell you something.” And this gentleman was in his 70s then.

And he said, “I’ve done this my entire life, human resources and all this kind of stuff and connecting to associates.” He said, “We traveled all over, basically all of your stores.

We went to Mexico. We then Went to the United States, and im talking all over the United States. We Went to Canada. We even went down to South America.” At that point, we were running stores in Chile in case you didn’t know.

He said, “You know, we spoke to a hundred of your associates– from cashiers, a lot of engineers, assistant managers, store managers, presidents,” he said, “every single one of them.

And we asked them ‘tell us about this thing, what you call orange-blooded philosophy, these core values,’ every single one of them, every single person without exception, could describe them.

Now the words were a little bit different, but the essence of all these core values were described fully.” He said, “I don’t know how you could do that. I don’t know how you’re able to maintain that with a half a million associates.” 

And it really goes back to an earlier story that when Arthur and Bernie went public in September of ’81, Arthur had a visitor from Wall Street, Joe Ellis, who was the senior partner at Goldman Sachs at that time.

And Joe said, “You know, your culture in these Atlanta stores is really unique, but you’re not going to be able to maintain it.” He said that he didn’t even ask him his opinion.

Can you believe that? He just told him what was going to happen. He just told him that this orange blooded philosophy was never going to work.

Arthur was 37 years old, and this guy was like the King of Wall Street, and so Arthur says, “Oh, God.” So he went in to see his partner two weeks later, Bernie Marcus.

He says to him “Bernie, I had a visit. I had lunch with Joe Ellis and he follows the stock and all of this he said the he was assured that this culture that you and I both know is so critical, was never going to work.

And so the only way we could do this,” he said to him that time, “is that when we promote people, we promote first on the basis of: Do they understand the culture? Do they live the culture? Are they great examples of the culture? And then if they are, then we could consider them for promotions. And if they didn’t do that, we couldn’t consider them in any other opportunities.” 

Nothing else mattered.

Arthur said – Nothing else mattered as much. So, therefore, the people that were promoted, it created the leadership group in our company, and all of our existing companies today are people that understand what our core values are.

◦ Leaders, I tell that story in my values based leadership class and here to you today because I have always found that even after my 30 years of sales and leadership experience in business, today as a post pandemic leader, the great litmus test is to ask the associates… because if your associates can recite the core values, you’re onto something.

Why? Because that’s the place where many usually can’t. Senior managers know it; people who just onboarded know it, but the new associates don’t, and they’re really the key to getting things done.

YOU are the orange key to getting this done,

I am so proud to be orange blooded with you on our journey together. I’m so proud of you, now let’s do this Home Depot and go be better versions of ourselves.

If you got value out of this, hit me up on Twitter @ZarirMerwanji


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Give people permission to make mistakes and the obligation to learn from them.

Mistakes will happen; it is inevitable; what happens after differentiates average organizations from great ones.

When errors are made, our actions shift from doing the right thing to covering our behinds in many instances. Pointing fingers rather than accepting personal responsibility, hiding errors rather than fixing them, and allowing minor problems to become big ones because they’re inadequately addressed.

Remember that mistakes are vital to our growth; we often put way too much pressure on ourselves to seek some unrealistic ideal of perfection. As the leader, let your team know that there’s no shame in making mistakes, and most importantly, you have their back when they happen.

I have seen people in leadership positions duck and throw their people under the bus when mistakes happen, and this leads to mistrust, lack of inspiration and the fear to try anything new.

The most extraordinary people in their fields have made countless mistakes; they didn’t give up. They persevered and inspired many people to follow their example; as Albert Einstein puts it, a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Try this … “Alexa, play the Zarir Merwanji Podcast …” it would mean the world to me, thank you so much.



This one is for my business owners, CEOs, founders, and bosses.

How much time are you putting into your employees? How much time are you spending meeting with them one-on-one?

You need to go all in on your people. In the early days, I was really “sticky” with individual people — DM-ing them, having meetings, etc. And even now, I still do it as much as I possibly can. If you’re upset about the “revolving door” at your company and having your employees leave is really affecting you, you need to figure out how to get stickier.

It all comes down to figuring out what makes your employees tick. Is it money? Responsibility? Acknowledgement? Title? The trick is knowing that the answer is gonna be different for different individuals. Think about your own life…there have been times in your career where you valued money more. There have been times where it was about respect, reputation, work-life balance…it’s not only figuring out what those few things are, it’s about what those few things are for each employee today. It never ends.

Keeping an employee might just be about paying them a little more…or it might be about you investing in your relationship with them and taking them out to coffee. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing your people.

Being a boss or an owner or a leader is about reverse-engineering your employees, not them conforming to you.

🎉 Heri ya Mwaka Mpya! How do YOU say Happy New Year 🎊 Let me know 🙂


Building relationships is a strategic advantage.

If you give value to someone else first, you have a strategic advantage.

It’s as simple as that. I truly believe that when I go and make time to do a keynote or free masterclass (even though my wife and kids think it’s stupid and I should be charging for it), that I then have leverage with that business owner or leader.

It’s a funny statement, and I know it feels kind of dark.

I mean I am so happy that my generosity is viewed in a nice way and contributes to me having a nice reputation, but I’ve said it before: I’m not Mahatma Gandhi.

I just think it’s a smart thing to do. I’m extremely good at building emotional capital.

Now do I cash-in on that leverage?

Sometimes. I actually prefer not to.

I’m very “Old-school, East African”, so I don’t like to ask for favors.

I actually hate that I have a coffee mug, t-shirt and hoodie coming out this winter, and I have to use this leverage to go in for the sale.


That brings me to the other half of the equation, which I think is huge, and that is having zero expectation for others.

The reason that I’m able to give so easily and create that leverage is that I never assume that someone will reciprocate and come through for me.

Both of those sides have to be in play in order for this system to work.

If things get out of balance, one way or another, someone’s going to end up feeling bad.

It’s emotional. It’s taxing.

My wife for example, is just the greatest woman on earth, but boy does she ever get let down by people.

I’m just not like that, okay maybe I used to be and that allows me to play through and keep giving.

What I love best about this is that it allows me to be extremely happy 99.99% of the time.

Lack of expectation and generosity are two very lucky traits I have, and they’re something that I implore more new Managers and future leaders to focus on.

This piece was originally posted on my Linkedin account.

Take a look. I do tons of stuff there!

😉 ✌🏽 ☕️